Declan O’Rourke may not be the most familiar name here in the States but over the pond in his native land of Ireland, he certainly is well-known. His three albums, including last year’s Mag Pai Zai, all have charted, he receives extensive radio play, and he performs across the country. He is lauded not just as a musician, but as a seriously deft songwriter. And rightly so – the Dublin-based musician exists in that vaulted upper eschelon of musical wordsmiths, reserved for those few that have an expert grip on their craft, but also challenge themselves with each new release.
With Mag Pai Zai, O’Rourke displayed both expertise and development, putting together a collection of story songs that are dramatic, exciting, humorous, tongue-in-cheek, and always terribly clever. Perhaps he does not go in for the obvious hook, the poppy played-out chorus that a lesser songwriter would have lifted. Perhaps it is because of this that O’Rouke, outside of his country, is something of a songwriter’s songwriter, less known to the general public than his musical peers. However, it is because of this very fact that O’Rourke’s music will have staying power; this guy is going to be around for a while, and, I hope, with even greater acclaim and popularity. While O’Rourke may not go in for that obvious chord change or lyrical progression, his songs are far from dissonant or complex beyond enjoyment; he skirts the line between syrupy simplicity and over embellishment with ease, and the result are immensely enjoyable and re-listenable songs. Enjoy this selection of songs from Declan O’Rourke’s catalogue, tracked in Philadelphia before his show at the Tin Angel this past September.